Ag News

GFB holding commodity committee spring meetings

by Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on Apr 01, 2021 at 0:00 AM

Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) kicked off its annual spring commodity advisory committee meetings in mid-March and will continue holding meetings for each committee through May. Meetings are being held following COVID-19 safety precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Georgia Department of Public Health.

GFB has committees representing the top 20 crops and livestock produced in Georgia. Each committee consists of GFB members who produce the commodity their respective committee represents. Committee members are tasked with giving GFB input on issues affecting their commodities and guiding the position the organization takes on these issues. Members are selected from each of the organization’s 10 districts when possible.

“Implementing the policy that you, the members, develop is the most important thing Farm Bureau does,” GFB President Tom McCall said during the GFB Peanut Committee meeting on March 30.

At each of the meetings, McCall has stressed the importance of the work GFB’s public policy staff does in Atlanta in representing Georgia farmers based on the input that comes from each of GFB’s commodity advisory committees.

“The things our legislative staff have stopped just in this legislative session alone are worth the cost of your Farm Bureau membership,” McCall said during the GFB Beef Committee meeting on March 19.

GFB Public Policy staff are giving committee members state and national legislative updates at each meeting.

GFB Public Policy Director Jeffrey Harvey is providing a short overview of how the results of the 2020 U.S. Census will be used to redraw Georgia’s state and U.S. Congressional Districts later this year.

“Unfortunately, we’re going to lose some of our rural county supporters {legislators},” Harvey predicted. “We rely heavily on our Farm Bureau members to establish relationships with your state and U.S. legislators. As rural districts become larger, this will be even more important. Y’all are the ones our legislators want to hear from regarding how legislation will impact you.”

As his schedule has allowed, GFB Public Policy State Affairs Coordinator Alex Bradford has provided updates on the 2021 Georgia Legislature session, which ended March 31. Bradford said balancing the state budget, election reform, and managing the state’s COVID-19 reaction have been the Georgia Legislature’s main priorities of the session.

“Agriculture is in good shape in the budget. We’ve also gotten funding for rural broadband projects. Thankfully, state revenues are up 7.5% from this time last year,” Bradford said.

Pro-ag legislation the Georgia General Assembly has passed this session that is awaiting Gov. Kemp’s signature includes House Bill 693. This bill, introduced by Rep. Steven Meeks gives the right-of-way to farm equipment traveling on state roads when they encounter other vehicles.

GFB has also supported Senate Bill 247, which modernizes the Georgia Agricultural Commodities Promotion Act regarding how state commodity commissions can publicize referendum announcements, public comment periods and other news pertaining to the business of the commissions. Current state code requires the commissions to have their news published in the newspaper that is Georgia’s legal organ - the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. SB 247 modernizes the Agricultural Commodities Promotion Act to allow commissions to meet their publicity requirements by publishing notices in the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Farmers & Consumers Market Bulletin and online. The legislation also allows online public comment periods and clarifies the voting process to create new or major amendments to marketing orders.

 GFB National Policy Counsel Tripp Cofield has delivered updates on happenings in Washington, D.C.  Cofield said the recent release of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) funds are expected to give cotton and peanut growers another $20/acre and an additional $80 million has been allocated to help the textile sector recover from losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers will reportedly only need to sign up for the new CFAP payments if they are applying for new programs or if they are eligible for CFAP assistance and did not previously apply.

In response to grower concerns about legislation like the Green New Deal, Cofield has discussed the historically slim majorities in the U.S. House and Senate and noted that the position of many moderate Democrats in both chambers will make it more difficult to move such legislation across the legislative finish line. 

“As has been the case for years, the House will pass a lot of legislation. Many of those bills will be approved by House members who understand they are unlikely to advance in the Senate on account of the filibuster rule, which requires 60 yes votes for most bills to move forward,” Cofield explained.

He also doesn’t believe there is enough support—at this time—among Senate Democrats to do away with the filibuster, which has been used for decades by both parties to prevent certain bills from advancing in the Senate. Unless the 60-vote threshold in Senate is removed, most legislative changes during this Congress are likely to happen at the margins.               

Some committee meetings have been attended by the leaders of state commodity organizations working on behalf of the various commodities. GFB’s Vegetable Commodity Advisory Committee heard an update from Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association Legislative Director Chris Butts March 16. Butts  spoke to the Fruit Committee on March 30. Georgia Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Dale Sandlin spoke at the Beef Committee meeting March 19.

While speaking at the Cotton Committee’s meeting March 29, Georgia Cotton Commission Executive Director Taylor Sills encouraged cotton growers to enroll in the U.S. Trust Protocol program, which is designed to increase the reputation of and demand for U.S. grown cotton.

During the GFB Peanut Committee meeting on March 30, Georgia Peanut Commission Executive Director Don Koehler reported that the GPC is allocating $886,235 to fund 42 research projects that will address peanut production issues during the 2021-22 research budget year. The research projects will primarily focus on peanut breeding, conservation methods, irrigation/water management, pests, weed and disease management.

GFB Beef Committee members toured MidSouth Packers in Forsyth after their meeting.  Monroe County Farm Bureau member Joseph Egloff opened his packing facility last fall after seeing the need for a packing facility in Middle Georgia. Egloff was inspired to build the facility after hauling his grass-fed cattle to a processing facility in Tifton for years to have them slaughtered and processed for his customers. Egloff sells his Rocking Chair Ranch Cattle beef to restaurants, at farmers markets and to customers. Egloff processes beef for about 60 different farmers in Middle Georgia. The GFB Goats and Sheep Committee is scheduled to tour the facility when it meets.

The GFB Cotton Committee members toured the USDA Cotton & Tobacco Macon Classing Office that grades all of the cotton grown in Georgia. Macon Classing Office Area Director Noah Bell, USDA Agricultural Graders Benjamin Graham and Ieisha Queen and cotton committee members discussed the higher presence of seed coat fragments found in the 2020 cotton crop. Graham showed the committee samples of cotton with lots of seed coat fragments so they could see and feel what the classers were seeing.

Graham and Queen also demonstrated how cotton samples are fed into the computerized Uster High Volume Instrument (HVI) system that measures the cotton sample’s color grade (gradations of grayness & yellowness in the cotton) , leaf grade (particles of cotton plant leaf that remain in the lint after ginning) , micronaire (a measure of  the cotton’s fineness), fiber strength, fiber length, length uniformity index, and trash percent area. On average, one HVI system operator runs about 100 cotton samples per hour.

Graham and Queen also explained how trained certified cotton classers manually inspect cotton samples to determine the presence of extraneous matter such as bark, grass, seed coat fragments, plastic, etc. This visual inspection is performed on every cotton sample in addition to the computerized instrument tests. Classers run about 250 samples per hour.

Employees of the USDA classing offices go through a four-week training session & must then pass an exam administered by the USDA to become certified to class/grade cotton samples, Queen said.

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